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Aaron

New York, NY, USA
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  • Crossroads to Freedom

  • Antietam
  • By: James M. McPherson
  • Narrated by: Nelson Runger
  • Length: 5 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 130
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 74
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 76

Through historical newspaper accounts and the personal letters of soldiers, the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself are stunningly recreated. You will enter the mind of Robert E. Lee as he makes the fateful decision to cross the Potomac River and take the offensive. You will feel the frustration of Abraham Lincoln as he struggles to convince George McClellan to fight. And you will stand side-by-side with foot soldiers as the peaceful Maryland countryside explodes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Far beyond the scope of the battle

  • By Aaron on 01-26-04

Far beyond the scope of the battle

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-26-04

This excellent book is not a standard battle history of Antietam (called Sharpsburg by the South) -- it is an excellent summary of the war to that point, and why the battle was so important in shaping issues beyond the battlefield. It examines examining the changing moods of both North and South up to that point, their changing expectations, what they were willing to put up with in terms of sacrifice and casualties. There is no sense of inevitability to the North's eventual victory here; the war was at midpoint and at the time a strategic draw. And although Antietam was the single bloodiest day in American history, while not to be ignored, this is hardly its significance. As a Union victory, it gave Lincoln the political capital to finally issue the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the Southern states. This changed the war decisively, rendering it a battle for and against slavery that it hadn't explicitly been to that point. For this reason it also foreclosed the possibility of any European recognition of the South, which was quite eminent and perhaps the South's closest means of drawing the war to a close in its favor.

In addition to these strategic issues, McPherson is also quite good at drawing out several personalities involved in the battle. Lincoln's difficult balance in withholding his Emancipation Proclamation without some tangible Union success is explained thoroughly, some generals are described, various European reactions are explored -- but the character one remembers most is the ambivalent general of the Army of the Potomac, McClellan. It is an excellent study of failings and success in command, and failings and success in character.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful